Excerpt from the Coffee and Conversation With a Grantmaker program featuring Lisa L. Bottoms, Program Director, The Cleveland Foundation, presented February 2, 2007
The Foundation Center: We are pleased to introduce Lisa Bottoms, program director, The Cleveland Foundation. Ms. Bottoms has been with the foundation for five months, and she tells us that she's learning a lot in her important new role in the community. She's responsible for the foundation's strategic grantmaking and initiatives focused on youth development and human services. We are very happy to welcome you to the Foundation Center today, Lisa.
Lisa: Thank you and again my name is Lisa Bottoms. I do know some of you and recognize the various organizations represented here from our region. You can read my bio in the handouts, but let me tell you what I think are the highlights! I've been in human services for the past 20 years, starting off in the child welfare field, working with children and families and then becoming a training officer. I realized that working with families in a training capacity was not something I wanted to do forever, but I believe that through this experience, training foster parents, daycare providers, and social services staff from executives on down, I really began to understand a lot about creating and running programs. I then became an associate coordinator with a policy and planning entity for families and kids. We would bring child-serving directors "around the table" and discuss large complex issues facing families and kids in an effort to build consensus and to move forward a shared agenda. I then took a different turn and went to work as a human services representative with Cuyahoga County where my goal was to help with information technology (IT) solutions. I did that for about a year and a half and discovered that I really missed youth-related public policy work, so I tried to find those types of activities to work on, particularly in the areas of intervention and prevention. Eventually I found my way back to policy work as the executive director of Cuyahoga County Family and Children First Council, where I stayed for about eight years before coming to The Cleveland Foundation. I believe that my background speaks a lot to my interest in public policy, advocacy, and prevention programs.
Audience Question: What area do you manage at the foundation and how is what you do different than what a program officer does?
Lisa: At The Cleveland Foundation, I'm responsible for strategic initiatives in human services and early childhood and youth development. I'm responsible for the foundation's grantmaking in the areas of poverty and basic human needs, like food and shelter, as well as safety, domestic violence, and gang violence. I'm also responsible for prevention programs, or "out-of-school" programs, as well as character-building programs, mentoring programs, etc. All of those things are included in my daily work.
Some of you, if not all of you, are here to learn how to get a grant, and many of you have undoubtedly met with Stacy Easterling and her staff of program officers. They staff the Foundation's "responsive grantmaking" area. This means that when you approach the Foundation through our standard initial procedure, submitting a Grants Inquiry Form available at our web site, seeking support for the things that your organizations do, Stacey and her team are the ones who typically handle those requests and the Foundation's response to those requests. In addition, there are five program directors at the Foundation, of which I am one. We are responsible for the Foundation's strategic and board-directed initiatives. So, for community responsive grant requests, you deal with Stacy and her staff, and for things relating to the Foundation's strategic initiatives you deal with the program directors.
Audience Question: Can you tell us about the board's strategic initiatives in your area?
Lisa: I was really brought on board to help with a new Youth Development Initiative that the foundation is very interested in taking forward, but currently the top initiative in my area in the Early Childhood Initiative, which revolves mainly around a program called Invest in Children. It's a public/private partnership that's based in the offices of Cuyahoga County government. Invest in Children has helped and served more than 80,000 kids since its inception.
For those of you who don't know, Invest in Children began in 1999 when 23 foundations and corporations joined with County government to design a set of prevention strategies for children. It was essentially a "home visiting" service called the Welcome Home Program, for first time parents and all teen parents, which has since been expanded to age 25. It doesn't matter if you've had a second or third child. If you're under the age of 25, you're going to get a welcome home visit from a registered nurse. Invest in Children also encompasses a prenatal visitation and referral program that includes enhanced services for pregnant teens; a program to enroll kids in government funded medical insurance, Healthy Start or Medicaid; a mental health program; an early intervention program for children who are exhibiting indicators of developmental delays or disabilities; and a lead poisoning prevention program. We're really trying to work with the whole family. Families really need to get these services and create homes where kids can thrive.
Lastly, Invest in Children works with child care teachers and directors and those preparing for this type of career to provide training, technical assistance, and ongoing professional development opportunities ensuring that children have access to the most qualified caregivers. Our goal is to take the quality of early childhood teacher training and care to a new level of excellence. The state is watching this program because it is a pilot program being implemented in Cleveland. The Foundation was an active participant in its planning.
So, Invest in Children is the main strategic focus for our work with children, prenatal through age five. Anything that we fund, we look to Invest in Children first. If your organization has a program that fits with Invest in Children, and that is something very innovative, let's talk, but know that most of the Foundation's support is going to go to Invest in Children. We've been involved since its inception; we've made many investments in evaluating its effectiveness, and it's an ongoing commitment for us at this point.
The Foundation Center: Our hour together is coming to a close. Thank you for being with us today, Lisa, and thank you for attending.
Lisa: Thank you.